Boxed In is songwriter and producer Oli Bayston.
Having played in indie band Keith, written for The 2 Bears, sung for George FitzGerald and been a producer for the likes of Charlie Boyer and the Voyeurs, Rosie Lowe and The Bohicas, Oli is now bringing his wide array of talents to bear on his own solo project.
As his list of credits suggests, he can draw on a wide breadth of musical knowledge. Oli grew up in Berkshire and then Essex in a musical family, the son of a piano teacher and an opera singer. He was surrounded by classical music from a young age, and while he’s now grown to love and draw inspiration from the repetition of composers like Steve Reich at first he rebelled against classical composition.
As a teenager he embraced albums like Nirvana’s ‘In Utero’ and Radiohead’s 'The Bends' and began writing his own pop songs on the piano when he was 15. This coincided with a newfound love of dance music - evolving from Matthew Herbert's 'Accidental' label and Basic Channel to Moodymann and Kerri Chandler.
He moved to Manchester to study music and embraced the rich dance music culture that seamlessly merged with the city’s indie heritage. His experiences of playing live with Keith mean he’s dedicated to recording and playing his music live, with no samplers or backing tracks. His intention with Boxed In live is to emulate the propulsion of a fully electronic set up using acoustic instruments and the flexibility of human touch.
After seven years in Manchester he moved to London where he delved further into the art of production. He assisted producer Dan Carey (Hot Chip, Toy, Kate Tempest) for two years and they wrote “loads of music together, just staying up late in the studio being weird.” They’ve since released music together as Scotti Brains.
“After Keith, my intention was to start something fresh and get a new project going,” explains Oli. “My intention was always to become a producer as well as an artist in my own right, and it’s worked out really well for me. It’s helped me hone a very specific sound.”
Boxed In is that project, and it brings together Oli’s two greatest musical loves: Krautrock and house music. “The album has a bit of both of those two things combined,” he says, “But the principle focus is always the songs. I’m a slave to the songs and I try to incorporate my love of specific genres of music into that.”
Inspired by the motorik rhythms of Can, Cluster and Neu! as well as house producers, like Pépé Bradock and Theo Parrish, Oli nevertheless emphasises that the art of pop song writing is right at the heart of Boxed In. “Often within electronic music the vocals are an afterthought,” he points out. "I wanted to maintain an equal focus on each aspect of the songs, particularly the lyrics.”
There are themes of love, longing and loss that run all the way through his debut album, although he’s quick to point out that it’s “not a concept record.” He describes it instead as an “outer monologue, a small document of someone’s life over the last few years.”
The record features a guest appearance from Anita Blay, also known as CocknBullKid, who duets with Oli on a track called ‘Lo Life’. “We wrote that together when we were working on her album two years ago,” he says. "It’s a song that resonates with me and by coincidence the lyrics had an element of prophecy in them."
The album’s closing track, ‘Wild West’, touches on a personal low point in his recent past. He is aware of the poignancy of immortalising a feeling at one point in time through a song. "It’s one thing to write your thoughts down in a diary, but one of the things about being a songwriter is that you actually have to perform that emotion day after day after day, whether you’re singing the song or just listening to it.”
Having made a name for himself as a producer and songwriter, Oli now finds himself itching to get back on the road. Boxed in are looking forward to an imminent tour of the UK, Europe and the USA.
There’s just one final question to answer: Why ‘Boxed In’? Oli explains that the name was inspired by Francis Bacon’s painting ‘Head VI’, in which the figure of a pope is depicted screaming while ‘boxed in’. The philosopher and art critic Gilles Deleuze wrote: “And the scream, Bacon's scream, is the operation through which the entire body escapes through the mouth.”
That resonated with Oli. “To me, I see that as the definition of singing and song writing,” says Oli, “When you write a song it’s like an account of your feelings escaping from within."